A Former Player’s Take on Pace of Play

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By Jake Aferiat

There has long been a complaint in baseball that the game drags on and takes too long. And to a certain extent, the people making this argument are correct. The average time of an MLB game has only increased, and to combat this, Major League Baseball has implemented new rules: managers are now required to remain in the dugout when challenging plays, and a batter must keep one foot in the batter’s box at all time (unless in the instance of swinging at a pitch, foul balls and foul tips, if the hitter is brushed back, or if a wild pitch occurs). Another issue that always arises is with pitchers and their impact on pace of play. The MLB has implemented a rule to combat that as well. After each half inning break, pitchers have between 2 minutes and 25 seconds to 2 minutes and 45 seconds after the commercial break to begin pitching again. Any repeat violators of the rule will be subject to a fine of up to $500.

With all of these rules in mind, I took to interviewing a former big leaguer, Reggie Jefferson, about the subject. Over his nine year career, he finished with 72 home runs and a career .300 batting average. His best season came in 1996 when he hit .347 with 17 home runs and 74 runs batted in. I’d like to thank Mr. Jefferson again for his willingness to answer my questions.

The first question I asked dealt with the pace of play in person as opposed to watching the game on tv:

Q: For people that haven’t played baseball before, how does the pace of a game compare on the field or being their in person, as compared to watching the game on TV?

A: “I think the pace of play in person is definitely better. A player gets caught in the strategy of the game and the fan enjoys being at the ballpark. It’s tougher for the fan watching on TV, but I’m just not sure what can be done about it.”

The next question dealt with the change in pace of play over the years:

Q: You played during the ‘90s. What, if anything, was different about the pace of play back then, as opposed to games now?

A: “The biggest for me is that the bullpens have become much more involved and affect the outcomes of games more.

Mr. Jefferson voiced his own take on the subject:

Q: What did/didn’t you like about the pace of games?

A: “Don’t have an issue with pace of play. Just feel that it’s certain teams that are bad. Yankees VS Redsox games are really painful to watch now. Way too long. I think Sox and Yanks just flat out over do it. Games get too long and drag.” (Jefferson spent most of his career in Boston.)

I then asked Mr. Jefferson if he was familiar with the new rules described above, and how he would have gone about changing pace of play:

Q: Are you familiar with the new rules that the MLB plans to implement? Do you feel that these rules will be effective? And the rules that are being put in place, are they the right types of rules?

A: “Somewhat familiar. Changes may help but I don’t really think they’re necessary.” Jefferson then went on to say that if he had to implement changes they would relate to “the number of mound visits by coaches and catchers. I would limit those,but overall, I don’t have any other issues. A mound visit (by a catcher) would count the same as a coach’s visit.”

Many people, myself included, are opposed to upping the pace for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into. Jefferson had a different take:

Q:  Do you think upping the pace is a bad thing? Does it send a message to the fans that the league is straying away from the idea that baseball has no time limit?

A: “I feel people who run the game are only looking out for what will help market the game better. And that’s their job, to sell baseball.”

And finally I asked how he thinks he contributed to the issue:

Q: Finally, as a hitter, what was the pace of an at-bat like and did you ever do anything to prolong a game or an at-bat?

A: “I feel I helped pace of play because my approach was, ‘this can be as quick as the pitcher wants it to be.’ Throw me a strike and I will hit it!”

Mr. Jefferson’s answers were incredibly helpful in shedding light and getting some perspective on the issue; he brought up some good points. Ultimately, though, only time will tell whether these new rules will be a home run, or whether the MLB has struck out.

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